NHL Rankings: Breaking Down Which Teams Are Over and Underrated

Tom Schreier@tschreier3Correspondent IOctober 2, 2012

NHL Rankings: Breaking Down Which Teams Are Over and Underrated

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    One of the positives of having seven different Stanley Cup winners and 29 teams different playoof playoffs teams (sorry Toronto)since the last lockout is that almost everyone goes into the season believing their team will be a winner.

    Yes, there are probably more people that believe in their team in Chicago than there are in Columbus, but most of the teams in the league have a decent chance of making the playoffs (16), and once you get in there, anything can happen.

    If hockey is played this year, and that’s a big "if," I’d like to shed a little light on which teams are going under the radar and which might be a little overhyped.

Anaheim Ducks

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    My Take: Underrated

    It looks like this team lacks depth around their superstars, but with names like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Jonas Hiller on your roster, fans in Anaheim know this team could be a bit of a sleeper—especially early in the season when nobody expects much of them.

Boston Bruins

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    Most people know there is a good team in Boston, but from what I’ve gathered there is a decent amount of hockey fans out there that do not see the Big Bad Bruins as bona fide contenders.

    Make no mistake, this team has enough talent to compete for a championship this season.

Buffalo Sabres

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    My Take: Underrated

    People saw this Buffalo squad underperform last season and appear to have written them off.

    There is a reason why guys like Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Tomas Vanek make the big bucks. All three can play this game well and are capable of taking this team to the playoffs.

Calgary Flames

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    My Take: Overrated

    Every year this team comes close to the playoffs.

    Every year they stick with an aging, flawed core.

    And every year people think they’re going to get into the playoffs next season and make a run.

    There are things to get excited about in Calgary, notably the addition of 26-year-old Roman Cervenka, a Czech superstar, in the offseason.

    Still, this guy isn’t Jagr 2.0 and cannot carry a flawed team to the Promised Land this season.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    It seems that people still have Washington, Florida and maybe even Tampa ahead of Carolina in the Southeast Division.

    With the addition of Jordan Staal and the retention of key players like Jeff Skinner and Tim Gleason, the Canes are show that they are serious about winning and should get a late seed in the playoffs this season.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    My Take: Underrated

    People heard of Patrick Kane’s drunken adventures last year, know this team took some damage due to cap problems and know that St. Louis has become a daunting foe and have written off the 2010 champs.

    Let’s not forget that this is a talented team with a proven leader (Jonathan Toews), two lock-down defensemen (Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook) and a guy that can flat-out play if he’s not 10 deep (take a guess at who that is).

    This team has what it takes to make another run at a championship.

Colorado Avalanche

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    There’s reason to believe in this team:

    Gabriel Landeskog should be a capable leader.

    Matt Duchene can find twine.

    And Milan Hejduk, Jan Hejda and Paul Stastny are proven veterans/leaders.

    Still, this team was underwhelming last season so it’s hard to tell if they’ve gotten things straightened out this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    My Take: Right On

    Not much is expected from the Blue Jackets this season.

    Even if they have a better year, they’re still No. 5 in a very tough division and are a few years outside of a playoff berth.

Dallas Stars

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    This team seems to get closer and closer to a playoff appearance ever year, only to disappoint their fans time and time again.

    Things should be different this season. The addition of two proven veterans, Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr, and a proven NHL player, Derek Roy, should turn things around for a team that’s already got a pretty solid roster (Loui Eriksson, Brenden Morrow, Stephane Robidas).

Detroit Red Wings

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    My Take: Slightly Overrated

    Overrated only because they are the Red Wings and the expectations are that they’ll be a powerhouse team every year.

    Chicago and St. Louis have passed this team in the Central and there are a decent amount of people out there that say Nashville has passed them up as well.

    That puts them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since the first Bush administration.

Edmonton Oilers

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    This team gets a first overall picks more often than Morgan Spurlock orders McDonald's, but like Spurlock during his fast food binge, they have been a little dysfunctional when asked to perform.

    That should change sooner or later.

    I’m not saying, “The Oilers are a Stanley Cup Contender!!!” I’m just saying they’re probably going to be a little better than people think right now.

Florida Panthers

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    My Take: Overrated

    For some reason people have penned this team as the No. 1 or 2 team in the Southeast and a playoff contender.

    I know that they won their division last year.

    I know that they challenged the Eastern Conference Champion Devils.

    And I know that they have some great prospects that should make an impact in the NHL for years to come.

    What some people are overlooking is that Alex Ovechkin and the Caps underperformed last year, Carolina and Tampa improved and the Panthers backed into the playoffs.

    This team may eventually become a consistent playoff team, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. They are certainly not there now.

Los Angeles Kings

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    My Take: Slightly Overrated

    This is a damn good team, but they are not the best team, on paper, heading into next season.

    The Rangers have a core of players in their prime and Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.

    The Bruins appear to be a little more proven and don’t have a team like the San Jose Sharks (and the Dallas Stars) to beat them up during the regular season. They’ll have an easier job securing a top seed.

    The Canucks have an even easier division and two Sedins, one Kesler, and like the Kings last year, a string of championship-less seasons to erase.

    The Penguins can make the playoffs without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Imagine what they can do with them.

    And while the Kings swept the Blues in the playoffs last season, nobody should sleep on this team. They’ve got a talented young team and a proven coach.

    The caliber of play among the six teams mentioned is awful similar.

Minnesota Wild

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    My Take: Overrated

    There is reason to believe that there will be improvement in Minnesota, but the addition of two players does not make the Wild an instant contender.

    This is not a quick-fix league.

    Teams need a lot of time to build chemistry before they can be considered serious contenders and now this team has build that in a lockout-shortened season.

Montreal Canadiens

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    My Take: Right On

    Montreal may or may not be as bad as they were last season, but it’s hard to see them suddenly making the playoffs and going on a deep run.

    It won’t be long before one of the league’s marquee teams joins the playoff ranks again, and the Habs have a propensity to upset top seed, but it’s going to take a little time.

Nashville Predators

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    My Take: Slightly Overrated

    I know that Ryan Suter is just one player and this team has done well after losing Dan Hamhuis, Scottie Upshall and Scott Hartnell in previous years, but this team relies heavily on defense and one of the top pairs in the league has just been broken up.

    It’s not a setback that is impossible to overcome, but it’s a setback for sure.

New Jersey Devils

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    My Take: Overrated

    The Devils went to the finals last year and you can’t take that away from them.

    Zach Parise was taken away from them, however, and losing a captain and go-to forward is going to hurt.

    On top of that, this team has less money than Charles Barkley after a trip to the Wynn.

    And they play in the Eastern Conference’s toughest division.

    That’s a recipe for disaster.

New York Islanders

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    My Take: Right On

    They might do a little better than last year, but they’re still No. 5 in their division and have a ways to go before gaining respectability.

    Maybe a little Pat LaFontaine lovin’ will help this franchise out.

New York Rangers

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    This is a bold statement, I realize, but if you aren’t considering this team a contender you’re more confused than Sarah Palin in a Katie Couric interview.

    I know they haven’t won since before the last lockout, but this is a phenomenal team with a great young core, proven veterans and a stalwart (and very handsome) goaltender.

    So the fact that a few people don’t have them in their Top 5, at least, going into next season makes them slightly underrated.

Ottawa Senators

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    My Take: Overrated

    This team put a little scare into the Rangers in the first round last season, but let’s not forget that they were considered rebuilding only a year ago.

    Anyone that watches hockey on a relatively frequent basis can tell you that Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Erik Karlsson are good players and the Guillaume Latendresse and Kyle Turris pickups are interesting, but this is not a guaranteed playoff team by any stretch of the imagination.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    My Take: Right On

    Most people look at this team and know they are very talented, but very injured along the blue line.

    That means that, until they get healthy, they are going to struggle a bit.

    But this is a roster full of players that is capable of winning once healthy.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    My Take: Overrated

    I know this team has made the playoffs three years in a row.

    I know that they won their division last year.

    And I know they lost to the champs in the playoffs last year.

    But this team is very flawed and the only reason why this isn’t more glaring is because they are extremely well-coached.

    Unless Dave Tippett can actually go out and score goals next season, this team is highly flawed, a little old and ultimately headed for a setback next season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    This is a complete team that can score, defend and goaltend.

    They can compete with anyone in the league if they are healthy.

San Jose Sharks

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    My Take: Hard to Tell

    It’s hard to tell what’s going on with this team.

    They’ve got big-time players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Brent Burns, but relinquished their division crown to Phoenix last season and saw yet another SoCal team take that championship they’ve been dying to get last year.

    It’s hard to get a pulse on where this team stands.

    If you think the Pacific is theirs to lose, let me remind you that the Kings won the Stanley Cup last season.

    If you think they’ll be cellar dwellers, let me inform you that Phoenix is destined for a post-good-season-for-the-Coyotes hangover that will leave them with a baby and a lion in their apartment and that less depth than a kiddie pool.

    The sharks are just kind of a bubble playoff team that needs some direction.

St. Louis Blues

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    My Take: Underrated

    This may be the best young team in the league that has yet to win the Cup.

    No they don’t have stars like the Sedins or Ryan “I get naked” Kesler or New York’s Richards/Gaborik/Nash/Lundqvist combo, but their team mentality trumps their lack of superstar talent.

    Plus Ken Hitchcock, the Rolie Polie Oldie, is the kinda guy that gets the most out of his team.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    My Take: Underrated

    Mastermind Guy Boucher had his Bolts humming along until Peter Laviolette unleashed his version of the Morris Worm on Tampa Bay.

    Boucher’s had enough time to stew in his underground hockey lab and will emerge with a new hockey strategy: five defensemen!!!

    Oh wait, that’s what the Islanders did and that didn’t work out too well…

    I don’t know what he’ll do, but Boucher will find a way to turn things around this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    My Take: Right On

    You’ll know the Toronto Maple Leafs when you see them:

    They’re the guys on the golf course in April when half of the league is still playing.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    But really, everyone knows that they’re missing the postseason again this season.

Vancouver Canucks

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    My Take: Hard to Tell

    The Canucks are still favorites in their division and they’ve been good for quite some time now.

    If you’ve got them inked for a Cup, you might want to reconsider.

    They’re a contender, for sure, but not a surefire bet.

    If you see an epic collapse after years of coming close, you’re probably overreacting. They’re too talented to miss the playoffs and Vancouver still has a championship push left in them.

Washington Capitals

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    My Take: Underrated

    This team has underperformed year after year and has to snap out of a bit of a spell.

    Even though Florida, Carolina and Tampa are all getting better, Washington is still the most talented team in the Southeast.

    It’s still their division to lose…but not for long.

Winnipeg Jets

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    My Take: Slightly Underrated

    Those prospects are eventually going to grow big and strong and help Winnipeg get through those harsh winters.

    It’s hard to see a serious playoff push next season, but there is one right around the corner for this franchise.